Core Beliefs as the Heart of Catholicism

By Lockwood, Robert P. | National Catholic Reporter, January 26, 1996 | Go to article overview
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Core Beliefs as the Heart of Catholicism


Lockwood, Robert P., National Catholic Reporter


I had a priest-friend who was an old curmudgeon, self-described. Except for Tom Clancy novels and the New York Mets' winning the World Series in 1969, this Priest would readily state that nothing much happened since 1950 of which he could thoroughly approve.

While he most often kept his opinions to a small circle of friends, every once in a while something would push him over the edge. Then he would mount the soap box, proclaiming to the world that matters were not satisfactory. He was fun, God bless him.

As seems to happen more often than not with the true curmudgeon, he was swimming against the tide on most issues. (Arguably, he wasn't happy unless he was swimming against the tide.) The list went on and on: He didn't like the idea of the vernacular in the liturgy. He got it. He didn't like the idea of face-to-face confession. He got it. He didn't like the idea of the New American Bible translation. He got it. He didn't like the idea of communion in the hand. He got it. I shudder to think what he would have thought of altar girls.

Yet, while he was a good curmudgeon, he was a lousy dissenter. First, he never argued the deposit of faith, though he was concerned what the impact trends and developments inside and outside the church might have on the transmission of the deposit of faith in all its purity.

Second, once these other matters were settled properly by church authorities, he would back off. He would be all rough and ready when issues were openly debated. Even after, among his coterie the grumbling might continue. But publicly, when a matter was settled, it was settled.

He never confused his personal views with his priesthood. And he never confused himself with the magisterium, the teaching authority of the church.

Shortly after the announcement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's defining the male-only priesthood as part of the deposit of faith, Tom Fox wrote a response in The New York Times. Fox, editor of the National Catholic Reporter, is on the doctrinally challenged side of things.

Among a host of odd views, he opined: "What divides Catholics today is not core belief.

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